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SALEM — The Senate on Wednesday, June 21, voted unanimously to remove a deadline for Pendleton to submit an affordable housing pilot program plan — with just eight days to spare.

The bill now goes to Gov. Tina Kotek for final approval. She has supported the housing programs in the past.

House Bill 2127A would remove the June 30, 2023 deadline for the city to submit its plans. The only remaining deadline would be the expiration of the pilot program on Jan. 2, 2028.

Similar programs have already been approved for Bend and Redmond.

The 42-day walkout by Senate Republicans put the fate of beating the deadline in doubt.

The bill was approved unanimously in April by the House vote and was expected to sail through the Senate as well.

But the May 3 walkout by Senate Republicans to block a quorum for votes on abortion and gun control bills delayed action on the housing bill, along with hundreds of other pieces of legislation.

If Republicans had not returned, the 2023 session would have been forced to adjourn on June 25 under the constitutionally-mandated deadline that the session last no more than 160 days after it began on Jan. 17.

All pending legislation would die with the end of the session. The deadline the legislature supported in waiving would have passed and required the Pendleton project to start its effort to win state approval all over again. The first chance would have been the 2024 session that starts next February.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Bobby Levy, R-Echo, was requested by the City of Pendleton at the suggestion of the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.

The bill was carried in the Senate by Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena.

Pendleton City Planner George Cress also testified before the panel, telling lawmakers that a quarter of renters were “severely burdened” in the cost and availability of housing in the city.

The Legislature voted in 2021 to add Pendleton to a state pilot program that allows cities to experiment with affordable housing projects beyond their urban growth boundaries. Advocates of the model say it could be applied elsewhere around the state in the future.

The 2021 legislation envisioned a project of up to 50 acres outside of Pendleton’s current development limits.  

Bend was the first city to receive approval for a project outside of the UGB, which usually requires a longer, more rigorous review process. Redmond joined the program as the second project and if approved, Pendleton will be the third.

State and local planning officials have touted the program as a way to see if limited projects outside of city’s normal development footprint can ease the high price of housing in the state.

The original three projects were all approved by Gov. Kate Brown. Newly elected Gov. Tina Kotek has made speeding-up the construction of affordable housing a top priority of her administration.

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